Volume 4 Number 1
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Your Questions Answered
6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:
Your Questions Answered
Impulse Management Posters and Cards
As the years quickly pass,
the tendency to make New Year resolutions decreases. However, I encourage you to
make at least two resolutions–even if you do not implement them. The reason is
that resolutions carry an inference that you can change. This can be extended to
thoughts of having control in how one reacts to situations in life–that one is
not a victim.
Resolutions bring a sense of empowerment, that you are the master of your life.
The last two lines of “Invictus” by William Henley embrace this concept:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul
Here are a few which may
prompt one for you:
Before going to sleep each
night, reflect on the day and ask, “Where could I have produced a more positive
I am going to make an effort
to avoid taking on other
people’s problems by helping them help themselves.
I will practice, “How can I change that into a reflective
A simple way to implement
resolutions is to think of a circle. Put those things that are easy for you
inside the circle. Place those that require more effort–goal setting, more
focus–outside the circle. When you accomplish one of the goals outside the
circle, your circle has grown–and so have you.
Resolutions can also relate to sharing with others. For example, if you believe
that this electronic newsletter is worth reading, tap the forward button to just
two other people in your address book.
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
The other evening a friend was visiting us with his wife and four-year-old and six-month-old sons.
As they were about to leave, the four-year-old jumped onto the driver’s seat of the van. The mother mentioned what a challenge young Adam is becoming and mentioned that trying to get him out of the driver’s seat will be a real chore.
I suggested to her that every time she tried to make him do something or stop
doing something, he would resist and that her most successful approach would be
one that does not involve coercion. I suggested that every time she tells him to
do something, he will interpret it as an attempt to control him and that she
will be creating a challenge for
herself. Sharing (rather than telling), asking a reflective question, or
challenging him are options that will be more effective.
To demonstrate the third option, as my wife was standing next to us, I leaned
towards Adam and said, “My wife and I have just made a bet. She said it would
take you two minutes to get into the back seat and buckle your seat belt. I told
her that I bet you could do it in one minute.”
Little Adam jumped out of the driver’s seat and almost knocked my wife over as
he ran around the van, climbed into his seat, and buckled his seat belt.
I told him how surprised and amazed I was that he could do it–and even in less
time than I thought he could.
The youngster knew where to sit. Having him demonstrate responsible behavior
merely took some thinking on my part, viz., “What could I say or do to prompt
him–something that he would not interpret as coercive?”
Itzhak Perlman, the prodigy
violinist who contracted polio as a child, was recently awarded a Kennedy Center
Honor. He is considered the classical world’s most accessible virtuoso and,
although he had no intentions of conducting, he found later that teaching and
conducting were very important to him.
He believes that the most important thing is listening –really listening.
Because he listens better now, he has more of an awareness of what he is doing.
This is particularly important to him in his teaching as well.
He related how his first teacher would tell him what to do because if he didn’t,
she would “chop his head off.” His second teacher had a totally different way of
teaching. When the violinist would play something for her, she would ask, “What
did you think of that?”
Perlman responded, “What do you mean what did I think of it? I’m here to follow
your orders.” His teacher prompted him to think about what he was doing.
At his famous teaching academy, Itzhak Perlman teaches his students in the mode
of his second teacher and continually is rejuvenated at his students’ progress.
When I present to a school
or school district, or when my In-House Seminar Package is purchased, the client
receives a 70-page Resource Guide. In it, I share one of my favorite stories. I
share it with you here. Interestingly, it is also about a violinist.
Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840)
is still considered one of the greatest violinists of all time. One day, as
was about to perform before a sold-out house, he walked out on stage to a
ovation but felt that something was terribly wrong.
Suddenly he realized that he had someone else’s violin in his hand.
Horrified, but knowing that his only prudent choice was to begin, he started
That day he gave the performance of his life.
After the concert, Paganini was in his dressing room speaking to a fellow
musician and he reflected, “Today I learned the most important lesson of my
entire career. Before today, I thought the music was in the violin.
Today, I learned that the music is in me.”
Let us foster this kind of thinking in our students.
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
The human appetite is
insatiable. You know this if you are a parent. An infant’s first three spoken
words are “mommy,” “daddy,” and “more.”
This is a paradox in humans. If we focus on total satisfaction, the result
becomes dissatisfaction because our desires are rarely satiated. Some people
never achieve enough money, time, food, gambling/gaming income, or whatever else
If we allow ourselves to succumb to our natural appetites, happiness eludes us
because it is the nature of life to want more. However, a happy-oriented person
is satisfied when one reigns over this natural desire.
A relationship with oneself will never be optimal without this paradoxical
realization. Each of us has a responsibility to have a good relationship with
ourself. Such a relationship starts with the understanding that one can strive
to obtain what one desires–but to be grateful for the opportunity of the
pursuit itself. And in the pursuit, decide at which level you will be satisfied.
5. YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
I just finished reading your article on the problems of
a business model for education:
BUSINESS: A POOR MODEL FOR LEARNING
What a breath of fresh air. Thank you for your insights and wisdom.
My school district is the only one in the state running the business model. To
date its kind of not working but with some folks believing that it is.
Can you send me any hard facts that you might have supporting either side?
Thanks for your comment.
I have no hard facts. There is nothing to “fact” about. It is a state of mind. I
want to clearly differentiate effort for learning and effort of any other
kind–especially employment. For example, in my book, the word
“homeWORK” is only in the index. I use the term “home assignments” and have
recently switched to “hometask.”
The differences between business and learning is so great in my mind that I
prefer not to use any term that joins the two–hence my not using the term
“work” when I refer to learning. Both business/employment and learning require
effort, accountability, performance, and have other similarities. However, the
objectives of each are so different that using one as a metaphor for the other
or comparing them is a mistake. A typical example is using remuneration for
employment. Pay for work is contractual. No such agreement exists in K-12
To quote W. Edwards Deming, “The most important things in life cannot be
measured.” Hope, empathy, understanding, integrity, character, respect, and
acceptance of others are just a few of the many characteristics parents expect
public schools to engender. None of these has any relation to economic
profits–a prime objective of business.
How one perceives something has a direct bearing on one’s behavior.
Differentiating between effort in learning and effort in employment leads to a
different mindset on the part of the teacher. Do students have a responsibility
to learn? i.e., they MUST learn regardless of my teaching–or do I, the teacher,
have a responsibility to make my lessons create the situations where students
WANT to put forth effort (through engendering curiosity, usefulness, enjoyment,
challenge, relevance, importance, etc.)?
6. Implementing the RAISE
You can share and learn more about the
RAISE RESPONSIBILITY SYSTEM at
This month’s edition
includes a post and response from the mailring.
First a note: The RRS system will work with anyone who has achieved enough
cognitive development to reason. Asking a student for assistance because you
need that person’s help, or asking, “What would an extraordinary person do in
this situation?” or employing any of the other techniques described in the book
prompt changes in behavior for those
who are behavioral challenges.
The following is included because of the significance of the message by the
There will always be the one student (or more) who will not respond to the RRS.
Is there something different that should be done to encourage that student to
understand the system? Will time and persistence take care of the problem?
I looked back and found a
few of Marv’s posts that might be of some use to you. They are in the RRS
Archives – Messages 172, 223 and 258.
I think that the answer to this question you have asked is very much tied to
expectations about what it means to have a child “respond” to the RRS. I
notice that sometimes when people say they are having difficulty in getting
certain kids “to respond,” what they mean is that they are frustrated that a
number of kids DON’T IMMEDIATELY BECOME OBEDIENT after being exposed to the
It’s important to keep in mind that aiming toward obedience is often
counterproductive because too many young people today resist authority. The
RRS promotes responsibility but also RESULTS in obedience because the
STUDENT voluntarily makes the choice.
The RRS is not a magic strategy and you won’t necessarily see dramatic
improvements occurring overnight in the more challenging children, but I do
believe there is always a “response” inside the child. It’s just that we
don’t always see that response.
Last April I wrote a post about this topic that might interest you. It’s
message #167 in the RRS Archives. In that post, I shared several passages
from a particular chapter in a book called, “Gentle Roads to Survival” by
Andre Auw. The chapter, which I think would be encouraging to you, is
Chapter Six, entitled, “Seed-Planting and Harvesting.” The main idea is
about the importance of maintaining a “seed-planting mindset” in any work
with people, as opposed to always being on the lookout for “the harvest.”
Although this book is not about teaching, the thoughts expressed can be
applied very well to teaching the RRS.
I personally find this chapter very helpful and re-read it on a regular basis.
It always encourages me to keep going in the direction of promoting internal
motivation with even the most challenging of students. It gives me faith
that by doing so, I will be able to make some difference in their lives in
the long run.
As a teacher, I am learning to wait more patiently and with more
certainty–knowing that any exposure to the RRS is a step in the right
direction. Just because I don’t always see immediate results doesn’t mean
that there isn’t something happening “under the ground.” It’s just that it
takes time for seeds to take root and then sprout.
Learning to be a more effective “seed-planter” is where I try to focus my
energy. I’m attempting to consciously let go of any expectations of what the
“harvest” should look like and when it should happen. As teachers, working
with any particular child for a span only of ten months, it’s quite likely
we may never “reap the harvest” ourselves with certain individuals. Rather
than be discouraged by this, I try to remind myself that I do have some
control over ensuring a “good harvest.” I can plant and nurture some “seeds”
in the present.
Having now taught for more than 25 years, I am beginning to see some of the
harvest that I never expected to see. I am starting to have some of my
former students, now adults, return to visit me. They often mention special
memories of our year together or tell me about something that I did with
them that affected their lives. The amazing thing to me is that I usually
don’t remember what they are talking about.
Although I am thrilled to have had an impact of some kind on their lives, I’m
always startled that it came about as a result of something very minor to
me–something so minor that I can’t recall it at all! That tells me that
even though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, I was indeed “planting
seeds.” This has done a lot to encourage me not to give up on some of the
more difficult children with whom I currently work.
Teachers DO make a difference. THE TRICK IS TO BECOME MORE CONSCIOUS OF THE
THINGS WE SAY AND DO IN EACH NEW MOMENT BECAUSE WE NEVER TRULY KNOW WHICH OF
OUR “SEEDS” ARE TAKING ROOT.
Several times now I have had the privilege of teaching some of the children of
the children I taught myself as a beginning teacher. This has been a
wonderful “lesson” for me in terms of letting go of worry and simply
concentrating on the moment at hand.
As it turns out, these particular parents who have returned to me now were
children that caused me endless worry twenty years ago–ones that I felt I
just couldn’t help, ones that I felt were destined to future failure. Well,
guess what? They turned out just fine. In fact, better than that, they grew
up very successfully and happily and have raised
wonderful delightful children themselves! IT WAS A HARVEST I NEVER WOULD HAVE
PREDICTED ALL THOSE YEARS AGO.
So, what is most important with those children who do not appear to “respond”
to the RRS? In Message #617 in the RRS Archives, Marv discusses the paradox
of becoming a more effective teacher by giving up the need to CONTROL
students–in other words handing over to the students the responsibility of
LEARNING TO CONTROL THEMSELVES. This is important for every child but
especially important for those children who appear “not to respond.”
Marv’s advice is to keep in mind the three principles of the RRS: BEING
POSITIVE with students, EMPOWERING THEM WITH CHOICE, and PROMPTING THEM TO
REFLECT. He says that it is critical that they not FEEL the teacher is
trying to manipulate or coerce them in any way.
The most effective teacher gets across the message that behaviour is a choice
and all choices naturally have consequences. Some are positive, some are
negative, and some are neutral. Behaviour is a CHOICE, and people are free
to choose responses to much of what happens to them. If you can get a child
to start contemplating these ideas, then you have planted some very valuable
“seeds.” You can empower them with the realization that life is a
never-ending series of decisions and help them to notice that it feels
pretty good to be able to look after yourself BY CONSCIOUSLY TAKING CHARGE
OF THE PROCESS.
For me, the key is to use the RRS hierarchy ALL the time so that it isn’t
associated in the minds of kids only with discipline problems. It is my
experience that then the students become more open to using the
understandings of the RRS to help themselves make better choices. The more I
discuss the hierarchy in a variety of situations, the more it seems to
becomes a natural tool that the children begin to use independently. They
start to evaluate their own choices, actions, and behaviours on an everyday
If you’re not sure what I mean by using the hierarchy all the time, you might
want to read about how my teaching partner and I use the hierarchy to
encourage our Grade One children to become better readers. Here’s the link:
As Marv stresses, one of the main principles of this approach is to ask
questions that will promote serious reflection. Those children who have
out-of-the-ordinary behaviour issues are the ones who especially benefit
from these questions. You can’t force children to change their behaviour,
but as the teacher, you can ask questions that will challenge them to think
about where their own behaviour is leading them–somewhere they really want
to go or not.
Learning to ask more effective questions is the main way in which I feel I can
improve my RRS skills and thus become a better teacher. The child’s INNER
RESPONSE TO THESE QUESTIONS IS WHAT WILL MOTIVATE THE OUTER CHANGE I am
hoping to eventually see. The better the questions, the more likely
the child will respond.
Kerry in BC
IMPULSE MANAGEMENT POSTERS and CARDS
Learning a procedure to
respond appropriately to impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at